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The Golden Girls: Season One (November 19/04),
Season Five (May 21/06)
, Season Six (January 1/07), Season Seven (March 25/07)

It's hard to believe that a show featuring the exploits of four elderly ladies has become one of the most enduring sitcoms in television history, but that's exactly the case with The Golden Girls. Essentially Friends for the geriatric set, The Golden Girls features the title characters - Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Sophia (Estelle Getty), Blanche (Rue McLanahan), and Rose (Betty White) - as they go about their lives, taking time out to chat and eat cheesecake.

These sets collect every episode from their respective seasons, and presents them with surprisingly crisp full-screen transfers. There are a number of memorable moments here, but when you get right down to it, the chemistry between the four central characters is what really makes the show come alive. It doesn't hurt that each of these roles has been perfectly cast, to the extent that it's virtually impossible to picture anyone else playing these characters. Arthur, a veteran of stage and screen, deftly steps into the shoes of the acerbic, sarcastic Dorothy - a woman who clearly cares about her friends, but isn't afraid to speak her mind when the occasion calls for it. McLanahan and White, as the slutty Blanche and dim-witted Rose respectively, are just as good, imbuing their characters with a genuine sense of humanity that ensures they're never ruled by outward characteristics. Finally, there's Sophia, Dorothy's mother and constant source of consternation. Though there's a silly explanation in the first episode of the first season for her tendency to say whatever comes to her mind (it's the result of a stroke, apparently), Getty proves to be a wonderful addition to an already strong cast.

There are plenty of standout episodes in the first season, including A Little Romance (which won the show an Emmy for Best Writing), That Was No Lady (involving Dorothy's dalliance with a married man), and Nice and Easy (featuring an appearance by Blanche's equally slutty niece). The first season also marks the first appearances of several recurring characters, most notably Dorothy's ex-husband Stan (played by Herb Edelman). Interestingly enough, in the season's third episode, Rose the Prude, Harold Gould pops up as Rose's date (Gould is the same actor who would eventually play Rose's boyfriend, Miles).

Season five of The Golden Girls kicks off with the two-part episode Sick and Tired, in which Dorothy must battle a skeptical medical community to find out what's really wrong with her. It's one of the most serious episodes of the series' entire run, and yet it generally remains typically engaging and entertaining (the wacky subplot revolving around Blanche's efforts to become a novelist brings in much-needed levity every few minutes). Other highlights in season five include: Love Under the Big Top (in which Dorothy begins dating Dick Van Dyke's lawyer-turned-circus-clown), Ebb Tide (featuring the death of Blanche's beloved Big Daddy), and The President's Coming! The President's Coming (Dorothy and company anxiously await the arrival of George Bush).

The sixth season comes armed with several memorable episodes, including: Snap Out Of It (in which Dorothy must convince Martin Mull's recluse to leave his house for the first time in decades), How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sophia? (Sophia joins a nunnery after the death of a close friend), and Henny Penny (the girls agree to star in a school production of Henny Penny, complete with ridiculous outfits).

The seventh and final season of the show boasts guest stars such as Leslie Nielson, Merv Griffin, and Alex Trebek, and some of the highlights are: The Monkey Show (Dorothy discovers that Stan has been dating her sister), The Pope's Ring (Sophia accidentally pilfers the Pope's ring), Questions and Answers (Dorothy prepares for a stint on Jeopardy!), and, of course, the final episode (in which Dorothy decides to tie the knot with Blanche's uncle).

The Golden Girls really is one of the best sitcoms in television history, and this is clearly the ideal way to view the show. Whether you're a Girls veteran or you've never seen a single episode of the series, this is an ideal package for fans and neophytes alike.

About the DVDs: Bonus features aren't exactly plentiful here, though each set does come armed with a few interesting supplements. Season one contains a silly featurette in which Joan and Melissa Rivers mock the Girls' fashion choices, while season six comes equipped with an interesting panel discussion from the Museum of Television & Radio. Season five contains commentary tracks on six episodes from Arthur, White, and McLanahan. Season seven comes armed with a poignant look back at the series.
© David Nusair